Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball preview: For Kindig, Lady Vikes’ depth a ‘good problem to have’
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team that walked off the floor at LaPorte High School after losing in the Class 3A semistate semifinals to Fairfield last year will not look like the one that takes the floor against Bremen at home in their season opener Thursday.
Kaydence Mellott and her 1,454 career points are now playing at Franklin College, and Molly Moriarty, Corinna Stiles and Lily Ault also graduated, leaving Valley without much of its ballhandling and shooting prowess.
In light of that, Valley coach Chris Kindig looks back at last year’s sectional semifinal in which the Lady Vikings shredded Bremen 56-33 and noted that nine different players scored in the first half of that game.
He mused that something like that might be more commonplace this year.
“We’ve got a real quandary because I’m not sure who our five starters are right now to be perfectly honest,” Kindig said. “So it’s still developing… but it’s a good problem to have. Last year, at the end of the year, we were playing nine or 10 girls, and I think we’re going to be about that deep again this year too.”
This year’s Valley backcourt could be more centered around sophomore Gaby Gonzalez at the point, senior guard Chesnee Miller and senior Ava Egolf, a 5-9 move-in from Warsaw.
“Those three are about as good as it gets defensively in high school basketball,” Kindig said. “Seriously.”
While there is no established scorer like Mellott, Valley coach Chris Kindig said his players can bother opponents with their defense.
“Obviously, we lost five seniors, and one of those seniors averaged 19 points a game and could shoot the heck out of the ball,” Kindig said. “I don’t worry about us defensively, but offensively, it’s going to take a little while, I think, for us to develop our roles a little bit. We saw some of it this summer. There’s a certain style we’re going to have to play, and if we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”
Sophomore Hailey Stookey and freshmen Hadley Wise and Lindahl Walls are other guards who will provide depth.
Gonzalez went from being an unheralded JV player getting spare varsity minutes to being on the floor in crunch time in the fourth quarter of state tournament games.
Now the varsity point guard job is hers, though Kindig would like to see others help out.
“She played well for us this summer, but we’re obviously going to have to figure out a way to develop more than just her at that spot,” Kindig said. “I think Ava Egolf can play some point for us, and I’d like to think Chesnee Miller, even though she’s a dynamo on defense, she’s going to have to handle the ball a little bit more, and I think even eventually, Hadley Wise, a freshman, is going to be somebody that we can develop into that kind of role too, but right now, our point guard is Gaby Gonzalez, and she’s pretty good at it.”
Kindig said he could see Egolf averaging double figures in scoring and called her “well-rounded.”
“She plays extremely, extremely hard,” Kindig said of Egolf. “Extremely hard. And she really attacks the basket well. She’s very aggressive. But for her size, she rebounds really, really well. She’s really a great defender. She can do some ballhandling, and we want to be able to develop her a little bit more. In high school girls basketball, I don’t think you can have too many ballhandlers.”
In the frontcourt, Valley also graduated post player Millie Scorsone but added John Glenn move-in Lucy Hayden to help in the post along with returnees Kelsey Cox, Macy Petersen, Carlee Snyder and Dalynne Bussard.
Petersen suffered a torn ACL in May but had the knee surgically repaired and has received medical clearance to play.
“She didn’t play with us all summer,” Kindig said. “She was doing a little bit of conditioning stuff the first week, but … she’s free to do whatever she can do now, which is pretty amazing for getting hurt in May… five-and-a-half, six months, that’s quick. But she’s moving pretty well, and obviously, Macy’s one of those people that I thought really played well for us at the end of the year last year, and we’re counting on her. She’s a pretty good leader too. She’s one of those who could very well step up for us and give us some scoring this year.”
Cox and Petersen are seniors, Snyder is the only junior in the program, and Hayden and Bussard are sophomores.
Kindig said he will rotate the bigs depending on who is playing well on a particular night.
“I would say the biggest thing is play with a lot more confidence,” Kindig said of Cox. “Confidence in herself because she has the ability to be able to do it and finish around the basket. … There were times this summer for us that she kind of bullied people.”
In addition to Egolf, Miller, Cox and Petersen, the other senior is 5-7 wing Ava Smith, who Kindig said stands out due to her athleticism and scoring potential.
“I’m saying right now that we can play whatever style we need to play to win basketball games, however that is, whoever the opponent is,” Kindig said. “And I don’t say that lightly. I really mean that.”
Former John Glenn coach Ted Hayden joins the staff as the JV coach. He is also Lucy Hayden’s father. Thadd Mellott remains the varsity assistant, and Tiffany Krotke returns as a volunteer assistant.
Valley told the Three Rivers Conference that they were leaving on March 31 and subsequently announced they were joining a new conference, later named the Indiana Northern State Conference, with Bremen, Jimtown, John Glenn, Knox and LaVille starting in 2024-25.
The TRC subsequently removed Valley from the conference, effective at the end of the 2022-23 school year, on April 24. That means Valley will play this season as an independent, though they did retain three TRC schools on their nonconference schedule.
That includes a home game against Rochester on Nov. 21, a road game at North Miami on Dec. 8 and a road game with Manchester on Jan. 25.
Valley also will not play Warsaw this season.
Valley will play Western twice, in Russiaville on Nov. 15 and again in the first round of the eight-team Carroll (Flora) tournament on Dec. 22. Valley will play two more games as part of the Carroll tournament on Dec. 23.
The Carroll tournament was picked up to replace the tournament at Trine University that the team played in last year.
Valley also added South Bend Adams, Northridge, Knox, Fort Wayne Northrop and Kokomo. The Northridge (road) and Knox (home) games will be played on back-to-back nights on Jan. 3-4.
By adding Knox, that means Valley will play all five sectional opponents during the regular season.
Valley will not play Jimtown and LaVille, whom they will have to make room for on their schedule next year.
Class 3A, Sectional 18
Bremen, Culver Academy, John Glenn, Knox, Rochester, TIPPECANOE VALLEY
Nov. 2 – vs. Bremen, 7:45 p.m.
Nov. 4 – vs. South Bend St. Joe, 1 p.m.
Nov. 7 – at Culver Academy, 7:45 p.m.
Nov. 11 – vs. Northwestern, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14 – at NorthWood, 7:45 p.m.
Nov. 15 – at Western, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 – vs. John Glenn, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21 – vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.
Nov. 30 – vs. Plymouth, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 6 – at Triton, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 8 – at North Miami, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 14 – at Winamac, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 16 – vs. South Bend Adams, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 22-23 – at Carroll (Flora) tournament (field includes Covenant Christian, Riverton Parke, Western, Lewis Cass, University, Western Boone, Carroll (Flora))
Jan. 3 – at Northridge, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 4 – vs. Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – vs. Fort Wayne Northrop, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 – at Kokomo, 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 23 – vs. Wawasee, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 25 – at Manchester, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 30-Feb. 3 – Class 3A, Sectional 18 at Rochester